Professor Emeritus Chester M. Zmijewski, PhD (1932-2016)

August 22, 2016

Chester M. Zmijewski, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, died August 15 at the age of 84. Dr. Zmijewski was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, where he received his BA, MT, MA and PhD, all from the University of Buffalo. He obtained his PhD under the teutonic tradition of Ernest Witebsky, a world-renowned immunologist who was originally trained by Hans Sachs and Paul Ehrlich in Heidelberg. The training gave him an appreciation of the importance of order, detail and the essential balance between the theoretical and the practical.

Dr. Zmijewski’s research interest in immunology developed during his graduate work. His first job moved him from Buffalo to Medical College of Virginia as an Assistant Professor and Director of the Blood Bank, where he worked with David Hume, MD, to develop protocols for the first kidney transplant from a donor who was a sibling but not an identical twin.

In 1963, he moved to Duke and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1967. At Duke, he helped organize the first International Histocompatibility Workshop. Throughout his career, he played a major role in understanding HLA as one of the pioneers in the development of tissue typing for donor-recipient matching for solid organ and bone marrow transplantation. He published the key paper for pre-transplant serologic workup that became the standard of practice and helped train many of the people performing this procedure. While at Duke, he wrote the first of multiple editions of his textbook Immunohematology. He authored five medical textbooks and numerous scientific papers during his career. In 1978 he served as president of the American Society for Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics (ASHI). The same year he was presented with the Award of Merit from the Japan Society of Blood Transfusion.

Dr. Zmijewski, widely and affectionately known only as “Chet” or “Dr. Z,” also served as an insightful mentor and inspiration for many of his colleagues. His friendship, good-natured collegiality and encouraging guidance provided the steppingstone for the careers of many clinical laboratory scientists, pathologists, and transplant physicians.

Dr. Zmijewski was recruited to Penn by then Chair Dr. David Rowlands in 1975 as Associate Professor and to direct a full-service histocompatibility service, which grew to international stature under his leadership. His expertise in transplant immunology advanced the growth of transplantation surgery at HUP and he was promoted to Professor in 1984. As committee chair, he led the efforts to computerize the HUP laboratories. He served as the founding Director of the Immunology Division and as Associate Director of the William Pepper Laboratories at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He retired as Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in 1996. After retirement, he divided his time between Hawaii and New Jersey.

Despite his accomplished career, Chet had numerous hobbies and outside interests. He enjoyed woodworking and was an avid model train collector, a hobby for which he served on the board of the Atlantic Division of the Train Collectors Association.
Obituary in Penn Almanac.